Stone Stories

Location
United States Pavilion, 16th International Venice Architecture Biennale, Venice, Italy

On View
May 26, 2018–November 25, 2018

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Created for the US Pavilion’s 2018 exhibition, Dimensions of Citizenship, Stone Stories investigates citizenship at the scale of Civitas. Building on Studio Gang’s ongoing work in Memphis, Tennessee, the project shows how redesigning cities’ public spaces—including those with complex histories—can be an inclusive process that empowers communities and gives rise to greater belonging.

Located on the eastern bank of the Mississippi River, Memphis and its citizens made a strong statement about belonging in 2017 when the city removed two Confederate monuments from public parks. Inspired by this exercise of community power, Stone Stories explores how one overlooked yet important civic site—Memphis Landing, a cobblestone river landing that dates from the nineteenth century—might become a very different kind of monument: an inclusive, horizontal site of public memory that elevates the stories, values, and aspirations of all Memphians.

Stone Stories transports hundreds of the Landing’s cobblestones to the US Pavilion and transforms them into a dramatic platform that connects Biennale visitors with Memphis’ past and present. Along with an original video, nine interpretively transfigured cobblestones, and a hand-drawn map, the project reveals the dynamic people and natural forces that shape the city and advocates for an equitable future.

The cobblestones will return to Memphis following the Biennale’s end. Carrying new meaning and awareness, and with new civic potential unlocked, they will be ready to help Memphians craft the next phase in the life of their city.

As Memphis’ historic “front door” and commercial hub, Memphis Landing served the city’s early economy, whose cornerstone was cotton, which relied on slavery. Forever linked to this legacy, and continually affected by the waters of the Mississippi, the 8-acre Landing has remained underused for nearly a century despite its location adjacent to downtown.

To find out what citizenship looks like in Memphis today, the Studio Gang team interviewed nine exemplary Memphis citizens, each of whom has a unique approach to making change in their city. Their insights are shared in a video that is on view in the US Pavilion and online.

Video by Spirit of Space

Analog and digital techniques were used to transfigure nine Memphis cobblestones into striking objects that reveal the stones’ previously hidden properties. These “story stones” simultaneously express the unique qualities of individual conversations and ideas while providing a range of material techniques that could be used to mark cobblestones at Memphis Landing.

Project Advisors and Collaborators

Bill Baker, Kevin Chang, and Dave Horos, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill

Carol Coletta, The Kresge Foundation

Benny Lendermon, Riverfront Development Corporation

International Masonry Institute

Pawel Nawrocki, Carving in Stone, Inc

Quarra Stone

Eric Robertson, Community LIFT

Spirit of Space

Sponsor

The Kresge Foundation

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